RE: Learning How to Do and Learning How to Learn (Was: New Hires)

Subject: RE: Learning How to Do and Learning How to Learn (Was: New Hires)
From: "Harry Bacheler" <hbacheler -at- geo -dot- census -dot- gov>
To: "Mark Baker" <mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Jan 2000 15:45:16 -0500

I can add to this a little.

I did not know what leading, kerning, gutters, mechanicals, and 'blue lines'
were until
I had to do the whole thing from research, write, layout pages, shoot
photostats, review,
talk with typesetter, printer, technical users, 800-number help desks, and a
of others. I needed, and still need, to understand the document from the
other person's

I am a better technical documentation person (a superset of tech writer,
from having to do it all.

Expand your knowledge of your craft, you never know when you yourself will
to teach your successors the 'documentation' trade. And it includes all of
talents and experience of those who built the framework we work in today.

Remember, Gutenberg had to do it all himself in order to know how to build
printing press.

Harry M. Bacheler, Jr.
VGS, Inc.

"The thoughts, ideas, and opinions expressed in my portion of this email are
mine and mine alone. They are not the thoughts, ideas, and/or opinions of
any past, present, or future employers, or any group thatI might belong to."
> -----Original Message-----
> From: bounce-techwr-l-20951 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
> [mailto:bounce-techwr-l-20951 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com]On Behalf Of Mark Baker
> Sent: Friday, 07 January, 2000 11:51 AM
> Subject: Re: Learning How to Do and Learning How to Learn (Was: New
> Hires)

George F. Hayhoe wrote

And far
more important, the tools students are exposed to should be presented
as more than just software for software's sake. The assignments built
around the use of these tools should encourage students to become
explorers of technology. The facts, theories, and skills learned as a
result of such guided explorations are far more valuable and
long-lived than the knowledge of the particular applications.

I think this distinction can usefully be taken further.

When I learned PageMaker, I was already experienced in page
design and page
layout. I had been doing it for several years with wax, tape, and PMT's. I
was a journeyman page layout artist already and all I had to learn was how
PageMaker implemented the page layout concepts I already knew.

I was able to learn PageMaker quickly on my own, but only because I
understood the craft I was trying to practice with it.

I suspect that many people who go for training on PageMaker or Frame today
are not already experienced in page design and page layout, and
that much of
what they learn in the course is basic craft, rather than
strictly software

When I say that no self respecting technical writer should need or want
training in the use of software tools, I should make the caveat that
training is perfectly appropriate for learning a craft. Technical writers
who have to do page layout can and should be trained in that
craft (using a
variety of tools, both software and mechanical). It is also quite
for a degree program to include some craft training, as long as it is not
predominate over education.

That said, technical writers should not have to do page layout and design.
It is a separate trade and should be practiced by professionals. The
connection between writing and page layout is a late and lamentable
consequence of desktop publishing. In the future, the need for single
sourcing and multi-purposing will thankfully drive out DTP and
let us get on
with our real work.

I would therefore assert that craft training in page design and
layout is a
legitimate part of a TW curriculum, but not an appropriate one as
we look to
the future. I would continue to assert that specific software
tool training
is both illegitimate and inappropriate.

Mark Baker
Senior Technical Communicator
OmniMark Technologies Corporation
1400 Blair Place
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1J 9B8
Phone: 613-745-4242
Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com

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